The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific has called on China to give up any plans to develop what he calls "high-end military options," and says the United States has no intention of abandoning its position as the leading military power in Asia. Admiral Timothy Keating made the comments in an interview with VOA Pentagon Correspondent Al Pessin.
Admiral Keating says U.S.-China military relations have improved since he took over at Pacific Command a year ago, and he has a better understanding of China's intentions as it increases its military spending by well over 15 per cent every year. And amid reports China is building a high-technology naval base in the south (on Hainan Island) and is considering developing aircraft carriers, the admiral urged Chinese leaders not to focus their resources on such things.
"We'd hope that they'd not spend a lot of time, effort or energy on those high-end military options, and instead they'd concentrate on working with us and all of our coalition partners to ensure peace and stability in the Pacific. We want them to, kind of, save their time and save their energy and don't bother," he said.
Admiral Keating says Chinese leaders should not expect to be able to become Asia's dominant military power. "It is absolutely essential for us to continue efforts to engage our Chinese colleagues in dialogue, to exchange personnel, to share tactics, techniques and procedures primarily to ensure they understand our preeminent role as the dominating military in the Pacific, our firm intention not to abandon that position, our hope and our trust that they do not endeavor to take us on militarily," he said.
The admiral says that would lead to "sure defeat" for China.
U.S. officials say China's increased military spending itself is not a threat to the United States, as long is it is not accompanied by hostile intentions. And Admiral Keating says he does not expect any military confrontation between the United States and China, at least in the near term.
"We're doing all that we can at Pacific Command across the entire spectrum of our personnel and our capabilities to assure them that we mean them no harm, that there's plenty of room in the Pacific for all of us," he said.
Admiral Keating says senior Chinese military officers have told him they only plan to defend what is theirs, and he says that is something the United States can understand. He says both countries have an interest in access to the sea and in protecting vital sea lanes. He also notes that Chinese leaders have said they want their country to have a "peaceful rise" and a "harmonious integration" with the international community. Admiral Keating calls that a "well founded" strategy and says the United States encourages China to stick with that plan.